Monday, August 28, 2023

Spiritual Warfare, Woes #5-7: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee of Righteousness

I am going to combine the last three woes.  Jesus intensifies His condemnation of the Pharisees as He continues to levy those accusations against them.  

He reiterates that the Pharisees' hypocrisy is too egregious to ignore:   

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matt. 23:27-28). 

Whitewashing a tomb seems innocent enough, when you are trying to make it look nice for a burial. In fact, when the mourners approach, you don't them to be distracted by a tomb that is not ceremonially prepared and unacceptable.  You honor the funeral procession and the dead by presenting a tomb that is really as it appears:  ritually clean and ready.  

But whitewashing a tomb when there are bones still in it and it is utterly unclean because of that, is another matter entirely.  That's a sickening kind of fraud.  It appears one way but is really another.  And that is not due to error.  The person who presents such a tomb totally knows what it wrong, but hopes everyone will ignore it.


Jesus will not and cannot ignore this.  The Pharisees are deliberate in their hypocrisy; He is not going to let them pass off their "respectability" without a challenge.


Because that's what prophets do.  The Old Testament tradition of the prophet is one who warns, cajoles and laments over what the people are doing and not doing, and how it is an offense to God Himself. Jesus takes on the mantle of a prophet in His denunciations. In fact, the next woe mentions the prophets and how the people (like the Pharisees) responded to them: 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against  yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!"(Matt. 23:29-32).

And they will.  They will conspire to murder Jesus, in the tradition of how many leaders in Israel responded to the prophets of old.  They are in a long line of those who listened to the prophets, not to learn how they failed God, and so repent and rededicate themselves to walking righteously, but to find a way to silence them.  

Then Jesus launches into His strongest attack.  He rails against those whose hardened hearts will only follow a god of their own creation. Their hardened hearts no longer hear the voice of God--they only hear the god of this world's voice. 

Satan rolls out his "Did God really say?" line to every generation, and sadly, many listen and believe.

In fact, Jesus equates those who listen with idolatrous snakes.  The comparison to Satan in the Garden of Eden is unmistakable:  

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation." (Matt. 23:33-36). 

It is interesting that Jesus is speaking of now, as well as a time to come.  He says that He is sending "prophets, and sages and teachers."  Who are these?  They will be of the New Covenant, washed in the blood of the Lamb and who will proclaim the Good News.  Think of Peter, Paul and the rest of the disciples, who will die in the service of this New Covenant, or people like John, who will be banished.  Why is Jesus laying the future persecution of His soon to be born church on the shoulders of these religious leaders?  

Because they refused to believe in the Messiah, the very One who stood in front of them.  Jesus' miracles were a testimony that he was not a false prophet, and they validated His ministry.  But, the religious leaders dismissed them as fakes, and refused to believe in Him.

When He raised a man from the dead, you would think that they would have reconsidered their view of Him and embraced Him wholeheartedly.  No.  They conspired to kill Him--the bitterest fruit of their hardened hearts.

I see the fall of the Temple of Jerusalem being referenced here as well, for Jesus later talked to His disciples about the End Times in Matthew 24 & 25.  The siege and destruction of the Temple in 70 AD qualified as the End, for the Jews were killed in vast numbers, their beloved Temple destroyed, and those who survived were enslaved or exiled out of Israel, not to return until 1948.  (Jesus' words to them create a blueprint for us as well.  History repeats itself, and our End Times will have similar things happen to us as it did to them.)

Why this dismantling of everything the disciples grew up with?  Because their  leaders would not say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."

Disbelief in the Son of God can have catastrophic consequences for a society, when leaders turn their back on the Truth--the One who is the Way and the Life as well.  It happened in Israel.

It is happening in America.

God loved Israel but allowed her to sow the seeds of her own destruction.  But He brought her back and restored her. 

God loves America but will allow her to sow the seeds of her own destruction.  Unless we say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord," our days are numbered. God wants nothing more than to restore His people, but before restoration comes repentance. No leader, no political party, no one church, is a substitute for a personal and whole-hearted return to Him and a life that reflects such a commitment.   

Satan's deception was and will always be enticing us to trust our own hearts, our own wisdom.  

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